Country Living
Think InsideThe Box Image Credit: Country Living
Think InsideThe Box Image Credit: Country Living

Think Inside The Box

A real estate addict with 12 renovations under his tool belt resourcefully reworks the existing footprint of a 1700s property (complete with centuries of awkward add-ons) from the ground up. 

Caroline Collins Mckenzie

Nearly all 12 of Bobby Houston’s renovation projects started with a scenic drive along winding country backroads. Says the writer/director-turned-designer: “You’re driving along, minding your own business, and then you come upon an old home with a ‘For Sale’ sign,” he says. “Next thing you know, you’re finding excuses to peek in the windows, hoping it’s in such bad shape that no one else will want it.” That’s exactly how things unfolded when Bobby and partner Eric Shamie fell in love with an old farmhouse in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The 250-year-old home was both showing its age and reeling from bad additions and upgrades. “In the 18th century, people had a pattern for building: little house, big house, then a barn, and so on,” says Bobby. “The little house was built in the 1780s, and then the family got prosperous and added on a bigger house in the 1800s. By the time we got here, there were weird transitions, lots of pink floral wallpaper, and multiple wet bars to contend with,” he says.

But Bobby was undeterred. He hired a contractor and took the house down to the studs, filling 15 dumpsters with past-its-prime plaster, rotted wood, and a “few miles” of defunct wiring and cast-iron piping. After stripping it down, he put it all back together, reconfiguring the home’s entire layout along the way. Here’s a look at his fittingly winding, not-a

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